Monday, 31 October 2016

Fings Ain't Wot They Used To Be!

Yesterday, George and I did a bit of a whirlwind tour of the East End.

Sunday morning is exactly the time to do that - Petticoat Lane, Brick Lane, & Colombia Road Flower Markets - just wonderful.

George got to see where I was as a youngster. Also where my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, and so many others may have spent their Sunday mornings.

He also got to experience, for the first time, a Salt Beef Beigel in Brick Lane. Being somewhat fond of his food, he rather liked this. Jewish cuisine could never be described as 'subtle', but this is something really special. About half a pound of tender beef, pickles and mustard in a Beigel that just came out of the oven - mmmm.

I showed him where Jack the Ripper disemboweled his victims, and where Flanagan & Allen were inspired to write 'Underneath the Arches'.

We strolled up Vallance Road, hung out in Vallance Garden (just yards from where the Kray Twins were born, and were to go on to run the most vicious criminal empire in the history of London), and I saw ghosts of some old pals. The demographics have now changed, and Bethnal Green is now a Muslim district. Ronnie & Reggie would not recognise it now. Actually, neither do I.

Of course, much else has changed.

Brick Lane is now full of 'street food' stalls. The traditional Costermongers are largely gone. Instead of Cockneys doing the weekly shop, there are students with dreadlocks trying to look cool whilst drinking 'double skinny de-caffe lattes to go'. 

They don't look cool to me.

There are not so many stalls there now, and there is very little that is there could be called traditional. Petticoat Lane is now just an outlet for cheap stuff knocked out in eastern sweatshops.

Half of Romania is in Brick Lane selling counterfeit Marlboro Lights, as it seems to me. The Sclater Street bird market is long gone, which might not be such a bad thing, but it was something to see at the time.

Things change. But I do miss the Cockney traditions, and I just wonder where, whilst everybody else brings their culture to the East End, I might go to find my own culture....

Isn't England Beautiful?

I am very lucky, I guess. My work has always meant that from a very young age - I joined the military at the tender age of 16 - I have traveled rather a lot. I have seen many things.

Our world is a beautiful place, although we appear to be determined to destroy it.

Whilst I have yet to achieve my ambition of visiting a jungle (I once volunteered for a deployment to Northern Ireland in order to get out of a stint in Belize with the Harrier force on account of the fact that I heard that there were spiders the size of dinner plates out there- I hate spiders and crabs - never trust a chap who wears his skeleton on the outside!) I rather hope to do that one day. I saw a bit of a desert in North Africa once, but I am always thirsty, so that might not be the best environment for me.

I remain restless, but sometimes I see something like this and I just stand and stare, and I realise that wherever I may end up, I am lucky to have been born in the most beautiful country in the world. England.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Bobby Vee: The Passing of a Legend

I don't have precise details, but I learn that the great Bobby Vee has passed away this afternoon.

73 years old, and suffering from Alzheimer's, the last I heard he was working on a new album with his sons. Despite his difficulties, he could still play guitar and sing.

He was first picked up in February 1959, after Buddy Holly died. The organizers of the Winter Dance party tour needed to replace Buddy.

Bobby Vee was a local guy who had a similar sound, so he was hired, and the rest is Rock n Roll history.

His early recordings were similar in style to the early Crickets' sound, and to his fans it was always his ballads that caught us: but in the 1960s he developed a more contemporary style. The Night has a Thousand Eyes, and Rubber Ball sold millions of copies.

I suppose everybody has their favourite track, and for me, as always, it would have to be an epic ballad. Suzie Baby was one of the early recordings, (Bob Dylan covered the song in his early career) but as great as the original release was, I of course stumbled across an alternative take (on You Tube) which was too long and complicated for the commercial market, but so wonderful.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Go, Johnny, Go!

Chuck Berry is to release his first new album in more than 35 years. That is quite an achievement for a man who celebrates his 90th birthday today (Oct 18th). The album will, we are told, feature mostly original work, written by Berry, who is the sole producer.
I have seen him live so many times since I first saw him on stage at Wembley in 1972 (I was 10 years old!) that I feel that I have watched him growing old.

The last time I saw him was in 2008 at Cirque Royale in Brussels, with a great crowd including then MEP for the Eastern Region, Tom Wise, with who, coincidentally, I am having dinner tonight.
By then he had slowed down, and his set was punctuated with instrumentals and the odd joke to give him a breather. It was still a great gig though.

He never has a running order, and will not rehearse with his band before a gig. He plays what he wants to play, and the band is expected to follow. But never does an audience leave disappointed with what they have seen and heard.
That moment when the band's opening instrumental dies down, the house lights go off, and spotlights shine on the left side of the stage, and Berry duckwalks onto the stage whilst playing the opening riff of Johnny B Goode is just priceless.  I think I saw him do this live at least 20 times.
I look forward to hearing the album albeit in the almost certain knowledge that it will be his last. He has come out of retirement for this, so he clearly has something to say - one more gem to leave us.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Hey, Bo Diddley!

Now if I had a narrow boat, I think this is what I might have called it. Well, I don't, and anyway, somebody else got there first.

I spotted this whilst taking a stroll along the River Stort in Hertfordshire.

I actually saw Bo live only the once, at Camden Lock, in the 1980s. It was something of an experience, and it took some hours to regain my hearing. He was credited with influencing the likes of Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, and the Clash.

Having began his career in 1955 he went on to perform alongside the Grateful Dead and countless others at the very top of the music industry.

He passed away in 2008, at the age of 79.

Nice to see this old barge navigating the peaceful waters of the Stort bearing his name.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Christian McBride Trio in Belgium

I've seen some pretty good gigs in my time. But possibly one of the tightest and most inspirational sets I have ever seen came in a small jazz club close to Antwerp last night.

The Christian McBride Trio, from New York City, exceeded even my high expectations of the evening. I wonder if three more talented and charismatic musicians have ever taken the stage together.

The repertoire was superb, the performance even more so. It is not possible to single out one member of the trio for the highest praise, each was equally impressive. A two hour set flew by, we could have easily sat through many more hours. Well done, chaps, and thank you for a wonderful experience.